Brix Tools Keep VoIP Calls Clear, But Not Easily

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2005-10-01 Print this article Print

Brix Networks wins applause for its call-quality testing technology, but some say the software is like a complicated "scientific instrument."

Brix is the fly on the wall of some very big Internet Protocol telephony networks: Its system constantly places test calls to listen for signs that voice quality is dropping off. Customers say its approach—checking whether an actual voice call sounds OK—sets Brix apart from network-monitoring packages that look only at isolated performance metrics. Some, though, say you practically need a degree in statistics to set up the Brix software.

Fidelity Investments uses Brix to monitor quality for about 3,000 IP phones at dozens of international offices. (It's also an investor in Brix.) Recently, one of Fidelity's service providers was dropping packets—bits of a voice or data transmission—which was degrading call quality at several offices, says Mike Brady, Fidelity's senior vice president of telecommunications. Only Brix detected the problem, according to Brady: "None of the traditional network-alerting tools picked it up." With Brix, "we're finding issues before end users notice," he says.

For Primus Telecommunications Canada, an Internet service provider in Toronto, Brix helped dramatically cut the time needed to resolve IP telephony tech support calls. Matt Stein, vice president of new technology and services at the company, says it used to take an average of 6 minutes for a technician just to discover the reason for a customer's complaint; now, Brix provides the data within 30 seconds. "If somebody calls and says they have a problem, the tech support rep knows exactly what the quality should be," Stein says.

Meanwhile, Internet telephony service provider Net2Phone used Brix to pinpoint a problem in its proprietary call-processing software that was causing 1 of every 100,000 calls to drop, according to Romel Khan, the company's director of voice engineering. "Without Brix, we didn't have any way to find this level of detail," Khan says.

But Brix' software, originally designed for telecommunications companies, is a complicated "scientific instrument," says David Holmes, a senior engineering technician for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. "It takes a lot of work to set up properly." For example, he says, setting service-level thresholds is a long, manual process. Holmes adds, though, that once in place, Brix provides "a level of confidence in the capabilities of the network—there's no guessing."

IP Telephony Management

Brix Networks
285 Mill Rd.
Chelmsford, Ma 01824
(978) 367-5600

Ticker: Privately Held
Employees: 60

Tom Pincince
President & CEO
Founded Brix in July 1999. Previously founded New Oak Communications, maker of virtual private network equipment (now part of Nortel). Prior to that, he was an analyst at Forrester Research.

Kaynam Hedayat
Previously an engineer at PictureTel, where he developed Internet Protocol-based videoconferencing products. Also has worked at Xerox and Digital Equipment Corp.

Verifiers include both hardware probes and software agents that generate test calls over an IP voice network and can monitor network utilization and performance trends. BrixWorx software, designed for telecom operators, lets administrators specify service levels, schedule tests, run reports and configure Verifier settings. BrixMon is a simplified Windows application designed for enterprises.

Reference Checks

Fidelity Investments
Mike Brady
Senior VP, Telecommunications
(617) 563-7000
Project: Boston mutual fund firm uses Brix to measure voice quality for 3,000 IP phones worldwide.

Primus Telecommunica-Tions Canada
Matt Stein
VP, New Technology and Services
Project: Toronto-based Internet service provider deployed 20 of Brix' Verifiers on its network last year to test voice quality.

Metropolitan Water District of Southern California
David Holmes
Senior Engineering Technician
(213) 217-7018
Project: Water district in Los Angeles uses Brix to track performance of surveillance video from 260 cameras over a wireless metropolitan-area network.

Pieter Poll
Dir., Core Technologies
(303) 992-1400
Project: Voice and data network provider, which handles 2.5 billion minutes per month in IP voice calls, use Brix Verifiers in two locations to monitor voice quality.

Defense Information Systems Agency
David M. Mihelcic
(703) 607-6900
Project: Military telecommunications and information-systems agency uses Brix Verifiers to monitor service for 1,000 IP phones on secure networks and 1,000 on an unclassified network.

Romel Khan
Dir., Voice Engineering
(973) 438-3111
Project: Internet telephony provider in Newark, N.J., has four Brix Verifiers deployed on its network to measure call quality and other metrics.

Executives listed here are all users of Brix' products. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

Revenue, 2004: $17.5 million (Experian estimate)
Funding: $61.5 million in five rounds
Investors: Castile Ventures, Charles River Ventures, ComVentures, Fidelity Ventures, Partech International, STAR Ventures, Telus Ventures
No. of customers claimed: 60

Juniper Networks, Oracle, Pingtel,
Portal Software, Psytechnics, Sun Microsystems, SupportSoft, Telchemy

Telecommunications: America Online, Comcast, Cox Communications, Level 3 Communications, Net2Phone,
Qwest Communications International, Sprint, Telstra (Australia)

Financial services: Aetna, Fidelity Investments

Government: U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs


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